Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Pasco district has no plans to move teachers because of VAM scores, regardless of state rule

Florida school districts are receiving their teachers' state "value added" scores this month as scheduled, and some are now scrambling to reassign those who got poor marks out of schools in turnaround status.

Six "ineffective" teachers recently were removed from a Gainesville school that got two consecutive D grades, while several Duval County teachers had two days' notice to pack up and move because of their scores.

State rule says turnaround schools cannot have a percentage of teachers with "needs improvement" or "unsatisfactory" ratings that's higher than  the district average. If the district has five or fewer schools in the accountability system, the percentage must not exceed the state average.

Pasco County has five schools implementing state-mandated improvement plans. And superintendent Kurt Browning says he has no intention of simply transferring teachers around because of their VAM.

(On a separate but related issue, the district has let go about 30 teachers because they failed to pass the state certification exams, though, human resources director Christine Pejot said.)

"We are not going to hit that panic button," Browning said. "I would want to argue with the state."

He said the district plans to assign training and mentors to any teachers who received low VAM marks while working in one of the turnaround schools, to help them improve their skills. They might move positions within the school as well, if that would benefit both teachers and students, Browning added, noting that's what the district did a year ago under the rule.

Related coverage: D-rated elementary school makes moves to satisfy state 

He criticized the state for adopting such an exacting standard for the schools.

"The state is inserting itself to force districts to make personnel decisions based on one piece of data," Browning said. "It's just not right. We know our people better than the FDOE [does]."

He further directed his criticism to the state's new rules on turning schools around, adopted as part of HB 7069 in 2017. Among other things, it limited district choices for turnaround initiatives and reduced the time for showing improvement.

Browning said requiring districts to move teachers is "just as crazy" as forcing them to hand control of struggling schools over to outside operators after two years of an improvement plan.

"They know full well it takes more than two years" to see meaningful change, he said.

(Harvard researchers have observed that struggling schools actually do their best learning in the "flat" growth periods.)

Hernando County school officials also said they had no plans to move any teachers because of VAM scores at this point.

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